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UMass plans to retire jersey in honor of John Calipari

03.05.15 at 8:07 am ET
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Former UMass coach and current University of Kentucky coach John Calipari will get a jersey honored in his honor at UMass next year. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Former UMass coach and current University of Kentucky coach John Calipari will get a jersey retired in his honor at UMass next year. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

John Calipari is one of the most successful coaches in NCAA basketball history, and the current Kentucky coach got his start at the University of Massachusetts by leading the 1995-96 team to the Final Four.

The school announced Wednesday they have plans to retire a jersey in honor of Calipari during the 2015-16 season. The official date of the jersey retirement ceremony and other information surrounding next year’€™s 20th anniversary celebration of the Final Four team will be announced at a later date. There is speculation the school is hoping to get Calipari’s Wildcats in town to play the Minutemen.

Besides the 1995-96 season, Calipari led the Minutemen to the 1991-92 NCAA Sweet 16, the second round of the NCAA tournament in 1992-93 and 1993-94, as well as the Elite 8 in 1994-95. UMass won five straight Atlantic 10 titles during that span as well.

Calipari was inducted into UMass’ Athletics Hall of Fame in 2004 this past February was announced as one of 12 finalists for induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2015.

His current team, Kentucky, is currently 30-0 with just one regular-season game remaining, Saturday when they host Florida.

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Boston University wins Hockey East regular-season title; Tournament field set

02.28.15 at 10:27 pm ET
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One year after finishing ninth in Hockey East, Boston University is the league’€™s regular-season champion. It took the Terriers longer to wrap up the outright title than they would’€™ve liked — they lost their previous two league games when a single point would’€™ve done the trick — but they ended up clinching it during the first period of their regular-season finale against Northeastern thanks to Notre Dame‘€™s 3-1 win over Boston College, the only team that still had a chance to catch BU.

Winning the title outright in and of itself would’€™ve made Saturday night a good one for the Terriers, but playing well was just as important given how poorly they played in Friday’€™s loss to Northeastern. They did just that, sprinting out to a 3-0 lead and ultimately winning 6-1.

Jack Eichel registered two goals and an assist, extending his point streak to eight games and increasing his nation-leading points total to 55 (18 goals, 37 assists). He also became the first Hockey East player to finish the regular season with two points per game in conference play since New Hampshire’s Jason Krog in 1998-99.

Bruins prospect Matt Grzelcyk scored his eighth goal in the last 10 games and added two assists in the win, while Ahti Oksanen scored his team-leading 21st and 22nd goals of the season.

BC’€™s loss combined with Providence’€™s 5-2 win over Maine means the Eagles will be the three-seed for the Hockey East tournament, with the Friars winning the tiebreaker and getting the two-seed. The Eagles outshot Notre Dame 56-28 Saturday night, but Irish goalie Cal Petersen made a career-high 55 saves as he stayed hot going into the playoffs (.961 save percentage over his last seven games).

UMass-Lowell wrapped up the fourth and final first-round bye with a 2-2 tie against Vermont, although the River Hawks can’€™t feel too good about posting just 15 shots on goal in the game. A little further down the standings UNH clinched the eight-seed with a 3-0 win over Merrimack, meaning the Wildcats will host UConn in next weekend’€™s opening round.

Here’€™s a look at the full bracket for the Hockey East tournament, which starts with the best-of-three opening round next weekend. The quarterfinals the weekend after are also best-of-three, while the semifinals and championship on March 20 and 21 are single elimination. Every game in the best-of-three series is played on the higher seed’€™s home ice.

Opening round
(5) Notre Dame vs. (12) UMass
(6) Northeastern vs. (11) Merrimack
(7) Vermont vs. (10) Maine
(8) New Hampshire vs. (9) UConn

Quarterfinals
(1) Boston University vs. lowest remaining seed
(2) Providence vs. second-lowest remaining seed
(3) Boston College vs. third-lowest remaining seed
(4) UMass-Lowell vs. highest remaining seed

Harvard, Dartmouth to host first-round series
In the ECAC, Harvard closed out the regular season with a 5-0 win over Princeton and finished as the conference’s six-seed. The Crimson will host 11th-seeded Brown in a best-of-three opening round series next weekend. Dartmouth finished as the five-seed and will host 12th-seeded Princeton after wrapping up the regular season with a pair of wins over Princeton and Quinnipiac.

Pairwise update
The Pairwise rankings are used to determine the 16-team field and the seedings for the NCAA tournament. Here’s a look at where things stand for the New England teams that still have a shot at an at-large berth:
6. Boston University
9. Providence
10. Boston College
12. Quinnipiac
13. Yale
16. UMass-Lowell
19. Vermont
20. Northeastern
22. Harvard
24. Dartmouth

In reality, bubble teams will have to finish at least in the top 15, as the 16th spot needs to go to the Atlantic Hockey tournament champion. Vermont and Northeastern should benefit from playing a first-round series, assuming they can take care of business. They would most likely need to win their quarterfinal series as well, and might have to make it all the way to the Hockey East title game to have a shot at an at-large spot.

Lowell will also need to win its quarterfinal series in two weeks. That might be enough to get the River Hawks in — especially if they sweep — but there’s a chance they, too, would need to to reach the conference title game. Harvard and Dartmouth probably need to win the ECAC tournament to get in, but there might be a small chance of getting an at-large spot if they just get to the championship game.

BU coach David Quinn (briefly) addresses Jack Eichel videos on College Puckcast: ‘We talked about it’

02.26.15 at 2:37 pm ET
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The Boston University Terriers have a lot to be excited about right now. They just won their first Beanpot since 2009 and they’ve already clinched at least a share of the Hockey East regular-season title. They can clinch it outright with a single point this weekend against Northeastern.

There was a hiccup this week, though. The day after BU’s Beanpot victory, a video surfaced that showed star freshman Jack Eichel bragging about “drinking beer out of the Beanpot” and then taking a gulp.

A player — even an underage one — celebrating this way is not surprising and not really a big deal, but the fact that it was caught on video and posted on a blog and that Eichel is the likely No. 2 pick in this summer’s NHL draft was enough for a couple national media outlets to pick up the story. A second video from earlier in the season that shows Eichel drinking also surfaced.

BU coach David Quinn briefly addressed the situation on WEEI’s College Puckcast on Thursday. Click here to listen to the entire podcast, in which Quinn addresses a number of topics as his team gets ready for the postseason.

“Yeah, we talked about it,” Quinn said.

Quinn was then asked if Eichel would be disciplined at all.

“Any discipline will be done in-house, and that’s between Jack and I,” he said.

While Quinn didn’t elaborate any further on that situation, he had plenty of good things to say about Eichel’s game and how he’s improved throughout the season.

“An underrated part of his game is defensively,” Quinn said. “He’s so strong. He’s aware of his body positioning. When he’s in 1-on-1 situations defensively, he doesn’t lose it. He ends the play. Jack has the athleticism and the strength not only to end the play, but he’ll end up picking the puck up and start your breakout. He backchecks with a vengeance. He understands pressuring the puck. There’s a lot of things that he’s done to improve his game, and that’s why I think he’s going to be an elite player at the next level.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Northeastern coach Jim Madigan suspended 2 games for ‘unsportsmanlike behavior’

02.26.15 at 10:17 am ET
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Northeastern hockey coach Jim Madigan has been suspended two games by Hockey East for “unsportsmanlike behavior directed at officials,” the league announced in a statement. The incidents leading to the suspension took place in Saturday’s game at Maine and Monday’s Beanpot final against Boston University, both of which were Northeastern losses.

Madigan was previously suspended for the first game of this season after criticizing officials following Northeastern’s final game of last season.

Madigan was visibly upset with the refs Monday night after BU won the game on an overtime power play resulting from a questionable hooking call. In his postgame press conference, he tried to convey his feelings about the call without violating the league’s rule against criticizing officials in the media.

“We can’t answer some of those questions,” Madigan said. “We live in a democratic society here. We can criticize the president of the United States on CNN and Fox and we can do all those things. We can’t criticize officials. We’re censored.

“Yeah, I think we thought we deserved better, but we can’t go there. So don’t ask questions about the officials, the penalty, because I’ve sat out already. We’re censored. We can’t say things against the league or the officials. Referee made a call. We didn’t agree with it. BU won the game on a power play.”

Madigan will now miss the Huskies’ final two regular-season games against BU this Friday and Saturday, with associate head coach Jerry Keefe leading the team in his absence. The Huskies are currently tied for sixth in Hockey East and are just one point out of the top four. The top four teams get a first-round bye and home ice in the Hockey East quarterfinals. Madigan will be eligible to return for Northeastern’s first playoff game.

“Coach Madigan’s actions are not consistent with the expectations we have for our department,” said Northeastern athletic director Peter Roby in a statement. “We hold all members of our department to a high standard, and we expect our representatives to treat others with respect and to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner both on and off the field of competition.”

Here is video of the penalty Madigan took exception to Monday night:

BU beats Northeastern in overtime to win 30th Beanpot title

02.23.15 at 10:19 pm ET
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BU celebrated its 30th Beanpot title Monday night. (WEEI.com)

BU celebrated its 30th Beanpot title Monday night. (WEEI.com)

After going five years without winning the Beanpot — their longest drought in 50 years — the Boston University Terriers are once again Beanpot champions. They beat Northeastern 4-3 in overtime Monday night to capture their tournament-leading 30th title.

Matt Grzelcyk — Charlestown native, BU captain, Bruins prospect and son of a longtime Garden bull gang worker — scored the game-winner 51 seconds into overtime with a power-play goal. After a Jack Eichel centering pass for Danny O’Regan drew a penalty just nine seconds into overtime, the Terriers set up on the man advantage.

Eichel and Ahti Oksanen won a puck battle along the boards and then Evan Rodrigues slid it over to Grzelcyk, who wristed a shot past Clay Witt (30 saves) for his second goal of the game.

With the win, the Terriers improved to 20-6-5 on the season and moved up to sixth in the Pairwise rankings that determine the NCAA tournament field. The Huskies, whose Beanpot drought is now at 27 years, dropped to 15-13-4 and fell to 22nd in the Pairwise, meaning they are now seven spots back of the final NCAA at-large spot.

The Terriers took control of the game in the second period, outshooting the Huskies 12-7 in the frame and outscoring them 2-0. They took a 2-1 lead 5:31 into the period when Cason Hohmann cut to the middle of the ice and threw a low shot on goal, producing a rebound that Robbie Baillargeon buried for his first goal since opening night way back on Oct. 10.

Baillargeon, BU’€™s leading scorer a year ago, has had a trying season, as he missed a month and a half with mono around the middle of the season and has struggled enough recently that he was a healthy scratch Saturday night. Needless to say, scoring in the Beanpot championship game was a great way to respond to being scratched.

Grzelcyk made it 3-1 nine minutes later with a big goal in what he hopes will be his home arena sometime in the future. The junior defenseman stepped into a slapper from the left point and found the back of the net through a Nick Roberto screen for his sixth goal of the season. Read the rest of this entry »

Hockey East postseason outlook with 2 weeks left in regular season

02.17.15 at 9:00 am ET
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With two weeks left in Hockey East’€™s regular season, let’€™s take a look at where each team stands as the postseason approaches. A few reminders before we get going: All 12 teams make the Hockey East tournament now. The top four teams get a first-round bye, with teams five through 12 playing best-of-three series to advance. The quarterfinals are also best-of-three, while the semifinals and championship are each one game. As for NCAAs, 16 teams make it — the six conference tournament champions plus 10 at-large teams. The field and seedings are determined by the Pairwise rankings — an objective, mathematical formula that is explained here.

Boston University (19-5-4, 13-3-2 HEA)
Hockey East: First (28 points)
Pairwise: Third
Despite a surprising loss at UNH on Saturday (one that snapped a seven-game winning streak), the Terriers are in really good shape all around. They can clinch Hockey East’s top seed and an outright regular-season title (their first since 2009) with three more points, or one more win combined with one more BC loss or tie. It’€™s possible they’€™ll enter Monday night’€™s Beanpot final with the regular-season title already locked up. On a national level, the Terriers are in position to grab one of the four one-seeds for the NCAA tournament. If they stay in the top four, they would be guaranteed to play in either Manchester or Providence for regionals. Even if they slip to fifth or sixth in the Pairwise, there would still be a good chance they’€™d be kept east.

Given that they have the best line in the country, a second line that’€™s heating up, a talented (if young) defense and a very good goalie, the Terriers are absolutely a national title contender. Getting to stay east for regionals before potentially playing about three and a half miles from campus for the Frozen Four would be a pretty nice path for them. Either way, one piece of hardware that should end up at BU this year is the Hobey Baker Award. Jack Eichel is the clear favorite to win it right now, as he leads the country with 47 points and 1.74 points per game.

Boston College (18-10-2, 11-6-2 HEA)
Hockey East: Second (24 points)
Pairwise: 11th
It would take a fairly shocking collapse from BU for BC to have a shot at the regular-season title, but the Eagles at least have the inside track for one of the other spots in the top four. They have a four-point lead over the two teams tied for fifth (Northeastern and Notre Dame), although both of them do have a game in hand on BC. The Eagles are a little above the Pairwise bubble right now and therefore in pretty good shape NCAA-wise, but they could still drop out of the top 15 (the Atlantic Hockey champ will take the 16th spot) with a few more losses and/or an early exit in the Hockey East tourney. BC has two big games against NCAA bubble teams coming up in the next week — first against Lowell on Friday night, then against Harvard on Monday in a rare Beanpot consolation game that actually means a lot for both teams.

UMass-Lowell (17-10-4, 10-7-2 HEA)
Hockey East: Third (22 points)
Pairwise: 18th
The River Hawks have gone 3-7-1 since Jan. 10 and played themselves out of the regular-season title race and onto the NCAA bubble in the process. Right now they’€™re on the outside looking in at an NCAA spot, but a strong finish — something they hope Saturday’€™s 7-1 trouncing of UMass was the start of — could get them back in position to earn an at-large bid, especially considering their last three regular-season games are against teams ahead of them in the Pairwise (one against BC and two against Vermont). The flip side is that if they continue to slide, they’€™ll have to win the Hockey East tourney in order to reach NCAAs for a fourth consecutive year. Read the rest of this entry »

Beanpot championship postponed to Feb. 23

02.08.15 at 7:16 pm ET
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Monday’s Beanpot championship game has been postponed to Monday, Feb. 23, due to the snow storm that will be in the area through Monday night, sources have confirmed to WEEI.com.

This marks the second week in a row the Beanpot has been postponed because of snow. Last Monday’s semifinals were pushed back to Tuesday. This week’s championship had to be pushed back even further, though, because the Bruins are at TD Garden Tuesday, the Celtics Wednesday and then Disney on Ice for a week and a half.

Boston University beat Harvard 4-3 in double overtime in last week’s first semifinal and Northeastern beat Boston College 3-2 in the second, ending BC’s quest for a sixth straight Beanpot title in the process.

BU and Northeastern will now meet at 7:30 p.m. in the championship game on Feb. 23. Northeastern hasn’t won the Beanpot since 1988, while BU last won in 2009. BC and Harvard will meet in the consolation game at 4:30 p.m.

This will be the latest the Beanpot final has been played since 1978, when it was pushed back to March 1 because of the Blizzard of ’78.

Beanpot Observations: Northeastern ends BC’s quest for six-peat

02.04.15 at 12:01 am ET
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Boston College‘s quest for a Beanpot six-peat is over. Northeastern saw to that Tuesday night, as the Huskies knocked off BC, 3-2, in the semifinals.

The teams entered the third period tied 2-2, but scoring chances were scarce in the third period and the game appeared destined for overtime. That all changed with 1:34 to go. Northeastern junior defenseman Dustin Darou got the puck at the left point, waited for his teammates to set a screen and then fired a shot through traffic that gave the Huskies a 3-2 lead they wouldn’€™t relinquish. Northeastern will now face Boston University in next Monday’€™s championship game. The Huskies are looking to win their first Beanpot since 1988.

After a lackluster first period that featured a dearth of scoring chances, Northeastern struck just 21 seconds into the second with a power-play goal. Kevin Roy sent a pass to the front that Mike McMurtry couldn’€™t handle, but fortunately for the Huskies, Colton Saucerman was right behind him to snap the loose puck into a yawning net.

The Eagles tied the game four minutes later. Bruins prospect Ryan Fitzgerald easily won a race to a loose puck and found himself on a breakaway. Clay Witt somehow denied him with a sprawling toe save, but Destry Straight was right there to bang in the rebound.

The Huskies regained the lead with another power-play goal at the 11:21 mark of the second. Mike Szmatula made a nice cross-ice pass to John Stevens at the left point, and Stevens walked in a few steps before snapping a shot blocker-side past Thatcher Demko.

The Eagles clawed back again, though. Fitzgerald ended up with another breakaway, this time while shorthanded, and this time he finished the chance as he flipped a backhander past Witt to tie the game at 2-2 with 1:31 left in the second.

Northeastern improves 11-11-4 on the season, while BC drops to 16-9-2.

Here are some other observations from the game:

Penalties, special teams were huge
The Eagles haven’€™t been a particularly undisciplined team this season (their 10.4 penalty minutes per game are middle of the pack in Hockey East), but they sure were Monday night. They took the first five penalties of the game, and Northeastern made them pay on two of its power plays. The Huskies had good possession and good movement on most of their power plays, as BC struggled to really get pressure on the puck. The Huskies got nice movement right through the slot on their first goal, and Saucerman ended up wide open in the slot. Then on Northeastern’€™s second goal, the Eagles gave Stevens way too much time and space to walk in from the point and pick his spot. The Eagles finally got a power play of their own near the end of the second, but they killed the last 1:15 of it themselves by taking a too many men penalty.

Then everything changed. Once that 4-on-4 ended, the Huskies had a 45-second power play and looked absolutely awful on it. First they gave up a shorthanded breakaway to Chris Calnan that was turned away, but then they gave up another shorthanded breakaway just 12 seconds later, and Fitzgerald finished this one to tie the game at 2-2.

Fitzgerald stepped up for BC
The Bruins’€™ 2013 fourth-round pick is starting to look like the player who had seven goals in the first eight games this season rather than the one who had just one over the two months following that. Fitzgerald had a hat trick last Saturday against UConn and then a goal and an assist Tuesday night. He used his speed to create a number of chances throughout the game, including two breakaways for himself. The Eagles don’€™t have any big-time offensive stars like they did last year, but they have guys who are capable of scoring, and Fitzgerald is certainly one of them. Him getting hot down the stretch would be a big boost for BC as it enters Jerry York‘€™s favorite time of the year — trophy season.

Beanpot Observations: BU knocks off Harvard in double overtime thriller

02.03.15 at 9:07 pm ET
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The 2015 Beanpot got off to one hell of a start. Boston University dominated most of Tuesday’€™s first semifinal, but Harvard goalie Steve Michalek made a tournament-record 63 saves to force the game to double overtime. The Terriers’€™ relentless pressure never stopped, though, and 2:18 into the second overtime they finally scored to pick up the 4-3 win and advance to Tuesday night’€™s championship game.

The winning goal came from BU’€™s top line of Jack Eichel, Evan Rodrigues and Danny O’€™Regan — the best line in the country, but one that had been held off the scoresheet to that point despite combining for 25 shots on goal. Rodrigues picked off a pass at the offensive blue line and then fed O’€™Regan for the game-winning tally.

BU controlled most of the first overtime and nearly won it twice in that frame. Michalek robbed Rodrigues on a beautiful pass to the front from Eichel four minutes in. Then with BU on the power play, Brayden Jaw came up with a huge block in the crease after Rodrigues hit O’€™Regan at the back door.

Harvard then nearly ended it right after killing that penalty, as they got a 3-on-1 as soon as Alex Kerfoot left the box. Matt O’€™Connor (31 saves) came up with a big glove save on Jaw, though. The Crimson had another great chance with eight minutes left in the session when Tyler Moy ended up with a breakaway. Moy fumbled the puck at the last second, though, and failed to get a shot off.

BU took a 1-0 lead with 3:10 left in the first. Brien Diffley broke up a Harvard rush in the neutral zone, leading to a BU rush the other way. Rodrigues, who had six assists against UMass on Friday night, held the puck on the right side before making a nice centering pass to a wide-open Cason Hohmann for an easy tap-in.

The Crimson tied the game just 1:15 later. Clay Anderson made an indirect pass down the left side for Jimmy Vesey, who used his speed to get deep before throwing a pass to the front that deflected off a skate and went right to the stick of linemate Kyle Criscuolo for the finish.

Harvard took a 2-1 lead 22 seconds in the second when Criscuolo collected a Matt Grzelcyk turnover and centered for Kerfoot, who was playing his first game since getting injured at the end of November. The Crimson extended the lead to 3-1 eight minutes later when Sean Malone scored from the slot on a play that should’€™ve been blown dead after BU got possession during a delayed penalty (more on that later).

The Terriers didn’€™t roll over, though. They cut the lead to one with 4:26 left in the second when Nikolas Olsson buried a rebound off a Nick Roberto shot. Then they tied it with 23 seconds left in the period when Hohmann, who had a game-high 11 shots on goal, fed Ahti Oksanen in the slot for the junior winger’€™s 17th goal of the season.

The game was just the fourth in the Beanpot’€™s 63-year history to go to double overtime. The Terriers improved to 17-4-4 on the season, while the Crimson dropped to 12-6-2. The win snapped BU’s five-game Beanpot losing streak, its longest ever in the tournament.

Here are some other observations from the game: Read the rest of this entry »

Beanpot semifinals postponed until Tuesday due to impending storm

02.01.15 at 3:41 pm ET
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The Beanpot semifinals, originally scheduled for Monday night, have been postponed until Tuesday due to an impending snow storm. The games will still be held at TD Garden at 5 and 8 p.m. Boston University takes on Harvard in the first semifinal, while Boston College and Northeastern face off in the nightcap. The championship and consolation games will still be Monday, Feb. 9.

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